Good news: Student Ahmed Samir Santawy has finally been released

Ahmed Samir Santawy, a 29 year-old Masters’ Student has been given an presidential pardon after being unjustly imprisoned in Egypt for spreading “false news”. Ahmed, whose research focuses on women’s rights, including the history of reproductive rights in Egypt had been arbitrarily detained since 1 February 2021.

What happened?

On 4 July 2022, Ahmed was convicted of spreading “false news” and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. His conviction was based solely on social media posts criticising human rights violations in Egypt and the state’s mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ahmed was arrested and disappeared for 5 days, whilst blindfolded he was beaten by police officers whilst blindfolded.

Amnesty International considered Ahmed a prisoner of conscience, detained only because of his academic interests and research focusing on gender and religion.

Ahmed was denied contact with lawyers and his family, and there were serious concerns about his wellbeing and health amid COVID-19 outbreaks in Egypt’s prisons.

How did Amnesty respond?

After his arrest in February 2021, Amnesty started a petition calling on Egyptian authorities to release Ahmed. There was hope for Ahmed when Amnesty supporters around the world took action. Over 10,000 people in Australia signed the petition and almost 5,000 people called the Egyptian embassy, putting pressure on authorities to release Ahmed.

Freedom of expression in Egypt

In recent years, thousands of real or perceived political opponents have been arrested and kept in prolonged pre-trial detention in Egypt, pending investigations into unfounded terrorism-related and other charges. Those targeted include human rights defenders, activists, lawyers, politicians, protesters, journalists, medical workers and academics.

Criminalising the dissemination of information based on vague concepts such as “false news” is contrary to the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the Egyptian constitution and international human rights law.

What now?

People power works, it puts pressure on those in charge to respect international human rights law. We will continue fighting for the release of individuals unjustly jailed around the globe.

No-one should be unjustly arrested and detained. Amnesty will continue to stand up for the right to freedom of expression in Egypt. Help us take action for Haneen Hossam and Mawada el-Adham, they have been sentenced to years in prison for ‘encouraging’ young women to share supposedly ‘indecent’ content on social media.

People like Ahmed have the right to a life lived in freedom and safety. Together we are powerful enough to challenge injustice and ensure everyone enjoys their human rights. Find out more about our individuals at risk campaign work.